World Science Scholars

1.6 Defining Free Will

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    • How do you define free will for yourself? Do you believe that humans really have free will? If we don’t, do you think this presents a challenge to human notions of morality and ethics? Explain your answer.

    • I consider free will to be an act of team work with our base reality. Considering all factors in the way the probability theory works and the basic definition of what is to be considered free will, i would suggest that both are interrelated. I believe that humans do have free will to a certain extent. Everything has a predetermined route to follow assigned to the universe and our decisions cause a chain of reactions to them.

    • It seems evident that absolute free will does not exist.Rather our free will lies in range of actions that we are capable of compared to non living matter.From a reductionist point of view, we are made up of particles that abide by the laws of physics and that leaves little to no possibility for free will.Still it is our identities that are responsible for our particles and free will or not, it doesnt justify our wrong deeds.I would like to add that behavioral conditioning plays an important part in our actions.

    • Every living human beings’ decision making is based on past information that has been assimilated by the brain. The responses come from the brain based on the perceived situation. The physical body just completes the response as ordered. There never is an either/or choice by the physical body in real-time. The brain has already made the choice and passed it on to the body.

    • Humans often have the perception of free will about some of their actions and areas of their lives. This perception may be more or less accurate on a case by case basis, depending on how the universe works. It may also be more or less useful on a case by case basis depending on pragmatic considerations.

    • How do you define free will for yourself? Do you believe that humans really have free will? If we don’t, do you think this presents a challenge to human notions of morality and ethics? Explain your answer.
      Free Will: Ability to consciously and independently take any decision without any outside interference or influence. Humans having free will depends largely on what kind of decisions is being taken. Yes, one can argue that whatever we are doing is not our own decision so it doesn’t matter what we end up doing.

    • Thanks for this

    • Super

    • I believe that people do have free will. Unfortunately most people fall victim to reactionary responses. If a person is yelled at as a child, and that child runs and hides and in turn feels safe, I predict that in the future they will also run and hide when faced with fear, without much thought at all. The body has learned that when faced with frequency of aggression the reaction is to hide. Our power of free will comes in when we resist the urge to react and hide, and choose to respond differently. What separates man from machine is our power to function outside of our programming, and break free from our own negative algorithms.

      • I agree with Sheli that people fall victim to reactionary responses. Human brains works through association, most of our learning is through outside influences showing us different associations to make but the curiosity lies within what associations end up sticking with us or repeating in our minds. Consider two siblings with two parents; parent 1 makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a knife (slathering jelly on one side, peanut butter on the other) while parent 2 makes the same sandwich with a spoon. Which parent will the siblings copy? will they go for the knife? the spoon? Will they both want the same way or each their own way? In this situation it comes down to convenience (more ingredients vs a smoother application), favoritism (which parent do they take after more), and quantity (do they feel more comfortable doing something if they’ve seen it done more times one way?). Of course there could be other factors but it’s up to whatever associations they’re making in their head, and this can also change with time.
        I believe free will is the decisions you make based upon the associations you believe are correct paired with the ability to change those associations at will once one realizes a fault in their process. Free will is based upon associations you have made because over time one has decided that is the way their world should work. If it is an association made out of fear I believe that is less of a free will response and more of a reactionary response like Sheli mentioned.
        I do believe that people have free will because people can change with the right mentoring, but if we did not have free will as far as ethics and morals go there would be a more confusing aspect into play as if there was something else controlling what people end up doing. Akin to the cells in a body unconsciously acting as one to operate a life, we could unknowingly operate for some kind of force that seeks to play out another version of life.
        Overall I believe that the ability of free will guides people into discovering what works best for them, what they’re willing to put up with, and what they want to bring into the world with the way that they know how to operate (through those learned associations).

    • We have free will when we have enough time to make real decision. Real decision presupposes pondering and not just reacting to some stimuli. Thare are lots of situation where free decision is not possible. Hurry is the enemy of freedom. Well, at least this is what I have ended up…

    • The brain is conditioned or programmed to act based on data already stored over the years since birth and recent actions. Accordingly ,choices for an individual is limited by that and action at any point of time is unique and can be the only one. There is no so called free will.

    • How do you define free will for yourself?
      Free will for a human is something internal to our thinking that allows us to feel that we are taking actions that are free-formed and reaction to our decision. It does not require action or physical reaction of some kind. We can be of free will but imprisoned in our physical body. Meaning I can play chess in my head and no one can stop me, but my physical being might be in a hospital bed or prison cell.
      Do you believe that humans really have free will?
      Yes, I believe that humans really do have free will in the mental sense. The physical sense to have free will over the actions your body can take and the movement around the physical world might be limited. I might be able to play a song in my head and hear every word but I don’t have access to a musical instrument or audio source to the play song.
      If we don’t, do you think this presents a challenge to human notions of morality and ethics?
      I think the legal and philosophical worlds are built around the concept of free will so that morality and ethics are always drawn into comparison with free will. I don’t think that morality and ethics are destroyed with an opinion on free will other than a yes answer. Meaning if I don’t think humans have free will that morality and ethics are destroyed from the concept. I think how we use judgment to determine someone’s performance against society’s morally accepted notions and ethical values is what is lacking free will. Our lense for morality and ethics is tinted by law and philosophy concepts that mask the individuals’ free will.

    • It is an interesting idea that your two examples are possibly a form of free will. could they instead be examples of self-awareness?

    • You could argue that. I tend to think of self-awareness as the mind creating the choice/recognization of the individual’s impact. I think therefore I am does not have free will because thinking makes me who I am. The mind could do this consciously or unconsciously depending on how repetitive the thought is. For me, free will is something more concrete in mind. Simpler than raising a hand or writing words. Free will represents an unconscious following of neurons firing that makes a decision but the observer or the human does not necessarily recognize there was a decision.

    • Free will can be defined as the ability to do something that isn’t necessarily caused by anything that happens before it. Instead, it is the result of non-physical events – specifically, our own thoughts – that originates right at some point. To me personally, I find it really difficult to find an argument for the existence of free will, because if you think about it, the existence of free will means we have the ability to affect the causal chain of the universe. We can make stuff happen on our own. But, I honestly find this idea untenable. Where would these free decisions, the ones that launch entirely new causal chains, come from? Are they simply random? What would compel one person to make one decision, and not another? And if I can answer those questions – if I can explain what would cause an agent to act – Then I’ve just reinforced the position that actions are caused, rather than free.

      I also believe that we’re not special, in the sense of, we all are parts of the universe, and fundamentally we’re also made of the same stuffs as say, a rock, the moon, etc. So, if those objects are “not free” then why would we assume that we are? What would make us so special? We all are bags of particles governed by the law of physics, just like everything else in the universe, the fact that we’re aware of our own desires says nothing about our possession of free will. I understand that when you see your mind as being capable of making free decisions, you think that what goes on in your head when you make a choice is not at all like, say, the moon orbiting the earth. But, well, mental states are brain states, or at least they’re tied directly to your brain. And brain states are biological. And biological states are physical states. And the physical world, is governed by a set of rules that we have no control over. So, in this picture, I don’t think there is any place for free will.

      The picture of the world without free can honestly be chaotic, just as what we’ve learned, we know that those who don’t believe in the existence of free will show more sign of aggression, because they also believe that they can’t be hold accountable for their actions. I, however, despite of not believing in free will, still believe that we have responsibilities over our actions, regardless of their freeness. Because as social animals, we can’t help but to hold people – including ourselves – accountable, and assign either praise or blame for their and our actions. But it also makes sense to think about how much, or how little, someone is in control of their actions, when assigning praise or blame. After all, some actions are beyond our control, like sneezing. So I won’t blame you for sneezing, because you can’t really control that. But I definitely will blame you for sneezing on my face because you do have control over where and how you sneeze. So, I think “Am I free?” is not the best question – because it’s pretty obvious that I’m not. Instead, we should be asking, “How much control do I have?” And the more control we have, the more responsibility we also have. I think his view lets us keep what we know about our nature, while also making sense of our subjective feeling of freedom. Other than that, I think accepting the fact that we have no control over what happens can help us to live more genuinely, I honestly feel a lot better after letting the delusion that I can control everything go, to me, this very thought is able to prevent me from flying too close to the sun when things go right, and from falling into the abyss if desperation when things don’t.

    • Very well said. There is one point I do not agree with but it may be that it needs more detail .You mention that we have no control of what happens. This is an issue of probability waves rather than having no free will. Excellent response.

    • If there is a difference between a physical process of brain decision-making and a mental awareness that informs what is intended, we could define free will as a decision process of that mental stage that should be independent of brain physical process related to decision-making.

      I think that the philosophical question about free will makes sense only if we realize that there are logical and semantic differences between the examination of the physical features of the brain and the descriptions of mental events.

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